Washington, DC – The Senate today approved legislation offered by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) that authorizes for the first time the federal formula for state homeland security grants, doubling the amount of funding that is allocated to high-risk states. The legislation also ensures that all states receive the resources needed to prevent and respond to potential terrorist acts. The Collins-Lieberman amendment would subject homeland security grants to tough new accountability measures, like an independent GAO audit and a requirement that all purchases help achieve baseline levels of prevention and response capabilities. In this way, the amendment would prohibit wasteful or inappropriate spending on items such as leather jackets and air conditioned garbage trucks as has occurred in the District and New Jersey.
“Our amendment, for the first time, authorizes a framework for the billions of dollars the Department of Homeland Security allocates each year to assist first responders and state and local officials in helping to prevent terrorism and prepare for an attack. It will also increase support for homeland security grants by putting an end to inappropriate expenditures that have little or nothing to do with homeland security,” said the Senators in a joint statement. “This is great news for first responders across the country who are working every to day to try to prevent terrorist attacks, and who are constantly planning and preparing to respond should the worst occur in their communities.”
The legislation was approved by a vote of 71 to 26 as an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill currently being considered by the Senate. The new funding formula would be applied to grant appropriations for Fiscal Year 2006 and beyond.
“States’ efforts to address homeland security vulnerabilities and needs are most often long-term projects that will require many years to complete. For example, creating an interoperable communications network is a complicated, expensive, and lengthy process,” said the Senators. “Multi-year planning is critical for states to develop a successful prevention and response strategy. A predictable level of state grant funding each year will allow states to plan and budget in order to meet the most difficult preparedness needs.”
Highlights of the Collins-Lieberman legislation: authorizes $2.93 billion for state grant programs, which would restore funding to the FY04 level; 25-percent of overall funds go to prevention; doubles threat-based funding; allocates a majority of funding to states and regions with highest risk, threat and vulnerabilities; establishes a sliding scale baseline minimum to ensure that states with greater population and population density receive a bigger baseline and that every state receives at least .55% of appropriated funds; instructs DHS Secretary to establish essential capabilities to tie each dollar spent to the unique risk and preparedness needs of states and localities; requires greater input from local first responders; imposes tough new accountablity measures – such as an independent audit and new reporting requirements and bench marks – to prevent homeland security dollars from being spent inefficiently. A full summary of the Collins-Lieberman first responder funding formula amendment is available at: http://hsgac.senate.gov/_files/homelandamendmentsummary.pdf.
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“Much of the front-line responsibility for homeland security has fallen squarely on the shoulders of our State and local officials and the more than nine million first responders nationwide. They deserve the equipment, training, planning, input, and stability that our legislation provides,” said the Senators in a joint statement. “Communities across America have risen to this challenge and developed scores of innovative homeland security strategies. This legislation will help ensure that all states achieve a baseline level of essential capabilities. At the same time, it directs resources toward states and localities that are at elevated levels of risk and vulnerability. In addition, our legislation requires greater input from first responders, allows greater flexibility for states and localities to put the funds to the best use, and establishes strong accountability measures to ensure that homeland security dollars are spent wisely.”
Senator Collins is the Chairman and Senator Lieberman is the Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over DHS. The Collins-Lieberman amendment is similar to legislation they introduced earlier this year, S. 21, which was approved by a voice vote by the Committee. The legislation has been endorsed by the National Governors Association as well as numerous first responder groups including the National Troopers Coalition, Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO, International Association of Chiefs’ of Police, United Federation of Police Officers, Inc. (New York), International Brotherhood of Police Officers (Boston), National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Fire Protection Association, National Emergency Management Association, and National Association of Development Organizations.